Is oatmeal good for diabetics?

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Everyone from grandmothers to physicians tout oatmeal's wholesome goodness and health benefits. But, is oatmeal good for diabetics?

Limited evidence shows that consuming whole grains, including oats, is associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, according to Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Oatmeal's high fiber content

The secret is oatmeal's high dietary fiber content. Dietary fiber comes from the part of plants that enzymes in your intestinal tract cannot digest. It's a form of carbohydrates and lignin that moves quickly through your body and helps the digestive tract function properly. Fiber provides a feeling of fullness, too.

Oatmeal contains about 4 grams of fiber per serving of ½-cup of dry or 1 cup cooked oatmeal. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 14 grams per 1,000 calories consumed. According to Mayo Clinic, that's about 21 to 25 grams of fiber a day for average women and 30 to 38 grams a day for average men.

Fiber promotes glucose tolerance and helps control blood sugar levels. That's why the American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends that diabetics increase their fiber intake as part of a healthy eating plan.

Whole grains high in fiber content are an essential part of this plan. Diabetics should try to consume at least three servings of whole-grain foods daily, according to the ADA. Whole-grain foods with so-called “healthy” carbohydrates include oatmeal, brown rice, buckwheat, whole wheat bread and corn bread.

Other foods high in dietary fiber

Other foods high in dietary fiber include vegetables and fruits, nuts, legumes (beans, peas and lentils), whole-wheat flour and wheat bran.

To keep blood sugar stable, diabetics must keep their carbohydrate, fat and protein intake in balance. Carbohydrates affect a person's blood sugar more than other types of foods, so limiting consumption of foods rich in carbohydrates is crucial.

The ADA cautions that there's no set diet or meal plan that applies to all diabetics. People with diabetes should consult a registered dietitian to design a healthful meal plan.

A healthy meal plan, along with proper medication and physical exercise, is crucial to helping diabetics manage their disease.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, Department of Health and Human Services, American Dietetic Association

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